First off, skating should not be confused with the term mobility. Skating refers to a group of basic skills that, when combined, transport a player/goaltender around the ice surface. Goaltender mobility, on the other hand, is the efficiency with which a goalkeeper establishes, adjusts, and re-establishes positions around the net area.
In essence, skating skills support all categories of goaltending skills. These categories include: mobility, positioning, save movement, recovery, puck control, tactical and transitional skills.
While there are a number of skating elements, such as striding, starting/stopping, pivots and crossovers, the most important basic skill a goaltender must develop is edge control. This is due to the very confined nature of goaltender specific movement. The ability to move around the crease at high speed, with control, and to then stop, requires outstanding edge control.
The hallmark of goaltender-specific movements is that they allow the goaltender to maintain most, if not all, of their stance fundamentals. These movements include the shuffle, t-push and forward/backward c-cuts. The fact that stance fundamentals are maintained means that striding is not required for the bulk of goaltending movement. Therefore, the only way for the goalie to propel them towards a new target is through the use of the skate edges.
These same edges will then be used as the stopping mechanism once the positional target is achieved. So, from the initiation of the move through to its completion, the skate edges, in particular the inside edges, play a paramount role.
Since edge control is a basic skating skill, skating’s role and importance can be summarized in the following manner. It is the precursor to all other skill development.
There are four essential reasons why a prospective goalkeepershould pursue skating basics before becoming a goalie.
- First, it provides the athlete with a general sense of balance. This is a confidence-inspiring benefit that lays at the foundation of any athlete’s growth.
- Second, and as described above, strong skating skills provide a basis for goaltender-specific development. Edge control is a basic skating skill that leads directly to position-specific movement growth. As a precursor, it is often easier to develop without cumbersome equipment.
- A third reason is there are more individuals who can teach proper basic skating skills as opposed to goaltender-specific movement techniques. Basic skating is well documented and sophisticated teaching systems have been developed and institutionalized by hockey bodies and professionals.
- A fourth reason is that typically beginners are younger and with reduced strength the younger goaltender will have more difficulty managing the additional weight and bulk associated with goaltending.
In short, the development of strong basic skating skills provides a foundation for goaltender-specific development.
With a strong sense of balance, the goaltender is able to progress logically and confidently into a position-specific phase. As skills are learned and applied properly the goaltender will develop with control and precision. Each of these characteristics is crucial during the early phases of development.
One does not want to apply incorrect movements during the early development phase. Repetitious work builds the goalie’s first set of natural/instinctive responses. Of course, one wants the natural or automatic responses to be correct. Many goaltenders establish very poor habits early and are unable to shed them later in their career. Often, these bad habits can be traced back to flawed skating fundamentals.
Never second-guess the preeminent role that basic skating plays in the goaltender’s game. The old cliché, “the goalie should be the best skater on the ice” holds merit to this day!